The Basilica of St.John Lateran is the Cathedral Church of Rome and the ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, the title which is held by the Pope. It is also the Ecumenical Mother Church of the Catholic Church and is the most ancient church in the world and ranks first out of the four of the major, or Papal, Basilicas in Rome. The Basilica was built under Pope Melchiade (311-314). The present day Basilica resembles St.Peters but over the centuries, has undergone several changes and renovations due to damage from earthquakes, wars and fires. Following the two major fires in 1308 and 1361 Pope Gregorio XI began the reconstruction of the Basilica according to the original plans. Work continued right through the 15th century and under Pope Innocenzo X, the architect Francesco Borromini brought new splendour to the interior. He built 12 niches in which today we can see the great baroque statues of the Apostles. In 1731, Pope Clement XII ordered the renewal of the facade of the Basilica, this was completed in 1735. Above the sacramental altar is a fragment from the table used at the Last Supper, and the Cathedral also houses the blood of Jesus which was brought to Rome by the centurion Longino.
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